73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.
Spend any amount of time in the Psalms and you will quickly identify a theme of suffering. Indeed, the Psalms tell us much about how to suffer well. I wish I could tell you that on this topic they reveal exhortations to hang out with friends, lay on the beach, stay in bed for hours on end, binge-watch Netflix, or drown our sorrows in a favorite food or beverage. But those tend to be our (sometimes unhealthy) responses to suffering, not God’s.
And why is that? Because our typical human responses tend to point us to more of ourselves, which may result in a temporary “forgetting” of our trouble, but ultimately leave us more empty on the other side. Instead, the Psalms point us to more of Jesus and result in a spiritual “filling up,” which enables us to persevere through life’s trials in peace, and even joy.
(Side note: Next time you read through the Psalms, notice how even the literary structure follows this revelatory pattern: The Psalmist often begins his writing in despair, intensely focused on himself and his circumstances. But by the end, he is exalting glory and honor and praise of God’s goodness and love and faithfulness, which results in words of hope, peace, and joy – even though the Psalmist’s suffering continues. This is an instructive model!)
Here’s a bit of personal context on how I come to these verses in particular: As someone who values the comfort and support of my family and close friendships, I found a recent season of suffering even more difficult when my family and I were required to relocate to a new state for a job change. It was during this time that we were also thrust deep into a family crisis, which sent me into a season of depression, anxiety, and heartache unlike anything I had ever experienced.
God had led us out into the deep and I felt excruciatingly alone — separated by hundreds of miles from my family, friends, and church home. It was in this season that God took me through Psalm 119 and showed me that even though my instinct in suffering is to run to my closest confidants, His Word directs me to run to Him. Indeed, it is the fellowship of Scripture that leads to hope, peace, and joy in the midst of suffering.
Notice in this passage how every verse points us to Scripture:
- Your commands (v73)
- Your word (v74)
- Your laws (v75)
- Your promise (v76)
- Your law (v77)
- Your precepts (v78)
- Your statutes (v79)
- Your decrees (v80)
And how this fellowship of Scripture leads us specifically to:
- Understanding (v73)
- Hope (v74)
- Faithfulness (v75)
- Comfort (v76)
- Delight (v77)
- Focus (v78)
- Confidence (v80)
Isn’t “understanding, hope, faithfulness, comfort, delight, focus, and confidence” what we seek most when we are in the midst of crisis; when we are suffering? We search and stumble and try to conjure up these things on our own. And yet, God’s Word is right here, free for the taking, ready to faithfully guide our steps there, every time. Whether we are called out into the deep all alone, or we are surrounded by friends and family for support, how much sweeter will our trust in Jesus become as we step boldly into the fellowship of Scripture in seasons of suffering.
73. Only the Creator can give understanding to the created. God created each one of us and He created Scripture. He knows our needs and He grants us understanding of His Word when we ask Him.
74. When we put our hope in God’s Word, and not in our efforts or abilities or relationships or expected outcomes, then we find joy and peace despite whatever our circumstances. This is one way God uses our suffering to encourage others and to encourage us.
75. God’s law is righteous, and His purposes are holy and just. Therefore, we can trust that even in affliction (suffering), God is faithful to us …
76.(cont’d from 75) … because it is in the hardest of times that we experience His unfailing love for us most profoundly, which He promises us in His Word.
77. We are unable to live apart from God’s compassion on us. He shows us compassion by giving us His Word and enabling us to understand it (see v 73). When we find our delight (our pleasure; our enjoyment) in it and not in the fleeting, temporary thrills and things of this world, then we find life.
78. Those who refuse God’s Word are arrogant — they assert no need for Him — and they will shame us and persecute us without cause. But rather than listen to them and be influenced or persuaded by them, we meditate on Scripture — we keep our focus on Scripture — and we let Scripture guide our every thought, motive, attitude, and action.
79. Although seasons like ours may find us alone in our suffering, we were not meant to stay there long-term. As hard as it may be, reach out. We were designed for community, and in times of suffering, a community of like-minded Believers will be a source of encouragement.
80. Think about what it looks like to observe someone who is pursuing a social cause wholeheartedly. They are sold.out. They read, they learn, they share, they try to convince others to become involved. They can’t get enough. So we must also follow God’s Word wholeheartedly, not picking and choosing the parts we prefer, but reading, learning, sharing … never getting enough. It is only when we follow God wholeheartedly that we can be confident we will “suffer well” according to God’s promises, and in so doing, we will become more like Christ.
73. Am I actively seeking God to give me understanding of His Word?
74. Am I putting my hope in God’s Word; or in my efforts, relationships and expected outcomes?
75. How have I seen my affliction as an expression of God’s faithfulness?
76. How have I seen God’s unfailing love in my affliction?
77. What is the source of my delight (pleasure; enjoyment)?
78. How am I yet arrogant to God’s Word? Where might I be refusing Him? And when others shame me for His sake, what is my response? Where do I turn?
79. Am I actively part of a community of Believers? If not, why?
80. Am I following God’s Word wholeheartedly? What evidence is there of my passion for His Word? How has God’s Word equipped me for a season of suffering? How does my suffering make me more like Christ?